3 To Know: Cat is coming back

Marco Eagle

1. Cat is coming back

The cat is back. Or will be. On Tuesday, Collier County commissioners can approve an agreement with the Smithsonian Institution for a loan of the Key Marco Cat, a significant relic of Marco Island’s earliest settlers, the Calusa.

The Key Marco Cat is the most well-known artifact recovered in Cushing's expedition, and arguably one of the best known anthropological artifacts ever discovered.

The 6-inch, part-human, part-feline sculpture was pulled from the mud during archaeologist Frank Hamilton Cushing’s 1895-96 excavations around Marco Island. It is believed to date some 1,000 years. It and other evidence from the dig helped shape the perceptions of early

native-American societies and has been described as one of the finest pieces of prehistoric art ever discovered in the Eastern coastal states.

The Key Marco Cat will be on display at the Marco Island Historical Museum from November 2018 until April 2021.

In addition to the Key Marco Cat, the museum will receive four items through a separate agreement with the University of Pennsylvania, another repository of the artifacts uncovered by Cushing.

They include a mask and an alligator figurehead. – Brent Batten/Staff

2. Money lined up to construct E. Naples ambulance station

Collier County will build a new ambulance station in East Naples to keep up with the houses and neighborhoods popping up off Collier Boulevard.

The station, which is expected to cost about $2 million, will open on a slice of land set aside for it by the developers of the Hacienda Lakes community near the corner of Collier Boulevard and The Lords Way.

Commissioners haven’t formally approved the project, but they set aside the money to pay for it in a tentative budget for the next fiscal year, which will start Oct. 1.

After the budget is finalized in September, the county’s Emergency Medical Services department will give building and site plans to commissioners, with a goal of starting construction in the spring, said Tabatha Butcher, EMS chief.

Construction will take six to eight months, Butcher said. – Greg Stanley/Staff

3. Fencing raised along Alligator Alley stretch to protect Florida panthers, drivers

Crews have closed a gap in wildlife fencing along Alligator Alley that has long been a hot spot for Florida panther roadkills.

The $2 million project, which wrapped up last week, replaced a 4-foot fence with a 10-foot fence along both sides of a 9-mile stretch of Interstate 75 from the Naples tollbooth to the Faka- Union Canal.

The Florida Department of Transportation recently constructed a 10-foot high fence, topped with barbwire, to prevent panthers from crossing Interstate 75. The fence, which starts just east of the Naples tollbooth, runs nine miles to the Faka Union Canal on both sides of the interstate.

Farther east of the canal, where wildlife crossings are built under the highway, both sides of the highway already are lined with a 10-foot fence with barbed wire on top.

Since 2007, 13 panthers have been killed by vehicles along the stretch of road with the shorter fence, making it one of the deadliest for the endangered species and risking drivers’ lives.

It took a 2015 report by a transportation ecologist, commissioned by the Florida Wildlife Federation, to persuade the Florida Department of Transportation to build the taller fence. The DOT announced plans for the fencing months later. – Eric Staats/Staff